The Art of the Followup (or how to increase sales and network smarter)

In: entrepreneur| marketing| networking

16 Jun 2009

A few weeks ago I was at the National Restaurant Association Food Show in Chicago, exhibiting the WingDipper. A restaurant owner was in our booth, and I was touting the many benefits of using the WingDipper over a traditional plastic cup (trust me, there’s a lot). He expressed interest in our product and proceeded to hand me a business card, asking me to contact him after the show.

He walked away, then returned about a minute later, and made me promise to followup. He said that when he shares his contact information with someone at a tradeshow, he will often never hear from them again. And he isn’t the only person who has told me this. I have had many people share similar stories. Imagine, a potential customer who is interested in your product feeling they have to beg you to call them!

Over the years, I have also met many people at conferences or events that have made a point to introduce themselves to me and ask for my business card, only to never call or email later. I admit, I have also done the same thing at times.

Networking isn’t easy. Getting sales leads is even harder. It takes time, and usually money. After all, exhibiting at a tradeshow (even on a small budget) isn’t free. And tickets to a conference or event can be pricey. To spend all the time, effort, and capital to generate sales leads or network with others, only to fail in your follow-through is a massive waste of time for everyone involved.

How good is your follow-through? As good as it should be?

The problem is that most of us lack a process for following up. For example, when you are preparing for a tradeshow, your first instinct is to plan for the show itself, and focus on capturing leads from attendees. What to do afterwards doesn’t seem as pressing. However, you should be putting just as much thought (or more!) into planning your followup process before you even step foot in the show. That way, you will know exactly what needs to be done when you return.

Similarly, when you are at a networking event, you are in networking mode, meeting people and swapping info. But the next day, you have already switched gears. Without a firm followup plan in place, there is a good chance you will never reach out to the contacts you made and never forge the types of relationships that can help you later on.

Finish what you started
For networking, try this tip. Before you attend an event or conference, schedule a block of time in your calendar specifically for reaching out to people you met. Don’t plan it for the first day you are back in the office, as you are likely to be swamped. Plan it for 2 or 3 days later. Send a short but personal note, and add a specific detail or two, referencing the conversation you had. It will help them remember you, and will show you were paying attention (Another tip: when you talk to someone, pay attention!). If you are a LinkedIn user, consider sending them an invite to connect.

Follow-through should be the easiest part of forming new business relationships, but all too often it is overlooked. Whether you work for a company or are your own boss, perfecting your followup process will help your business, open new doors, and lead to more opportunities. And best of all, it’s usually free.

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Mark Webster

About Mark Webster

One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.